2. Mrówka rudnica
The red ant (Formica rufa) is an insect, a representative of the ant family, belonging to the order Hymenoptera. This large social ant is common and numerous in our country. The worker ants can reach 5 to 9 mm. The characteristic of this species is the vertical scale, located between the abdomen and thorax. Brown and black are the upper part of the head, part of the trunk, abdomen, and legs, the rest are red (hence the name). We usually observe wingless workers. Red ants do not have stingers, but they do have venom glands. It is a species of forest habitats. Prefers pine forests.
These ants build huge mounds reaching up to one meter in height, called anthills, usually made of tree needles, leaves, and small twigs,. Only half of the nest is above the ground. There is a labyrinth of corridors and chambers underground. Each place in the anthill has strictly defined functions - there are pantries, nurseries, and the queen's chamber. The thickness of the walls of an anthill can range from 5 to 20 cm. Due to this, water or snow cannot penetrate inside. Additionally, there are also numerous channels in the mound that act as ventilation. One anthill usually has one queen (temporarily there may be several thousand of them) and over 100,000 (or even a million) workers. Young worker ants are responsible for the care of the larvae, and all work inside the anthill. Gathering food and protecting the anthill is the role of older workers. In search of food, they can move away from the anthill at a distance of up to several dozen meters.
The worker ants care for the proper temperature of the eggs. When it is warm, the eggs are move upward, are moved upwards, and when it is cold, the eggs are moved lower. In winter, ants hibernate, hidden in anthills. In the event of a threat to the nest, workers gather at the exits of corridors from the anthill, bend their abdomens between their legs, and spray the intruder with formic acid. They can spray it at a distance of about 0.5 m. Red ants also fight fiercely against neighboring colonies. Strong mandibles are in motion, with which they tear opponents to pieces and carry them as food to their anthill.
Red ants are predators that kill small insects, including forest pests, to feed their larvae. The red ant feeds on invertebrates and aphid honeydew. In the summer, males with wings and winged queens can be observed near the anthills. The mating flight takes place. After copulation, all males die and the fertilized queens begin to establish their own anthill. They shed their wings and look for a nest of a related species, the silky ant (Formica fusca). The queen of this nest is killed by the invader and the silky ant workers begin tending to the eggs of the red ant. The queen only lays eggs. After some time, the original hosts of the nest die out and the entire anthill consists only of red ant workers.
The red ant plays an important role in the functioning of forest ecosystems. In the summer, the ants of one anthill kill about 50,000 insect larvae, thus protecting the forest against their mass reproduction.
Large animals, such as wild boars, which damage anthills in winter, are among the greatest enemies of the red beetle. Other threats include woodpeckers that like ant protein, and some arthropods, such as ant-lion larvae and spiders.
The red ant is under partial protection in Poland and is on the Red List of Vanishing and Threatened Animals. Ant nests are also protected.
A vertical scale between the thorax and abdomen in a red ant.
Red ant worker.